The Human Beings - issue 3.
Created by SJ McCuune.
Published by Millicent Barnes Comics - 24 pages - full colour.
Sometimes I like to get a press release. Often they are a handy explanation of a plot and a history of the creator or creators. It is an easy short cut when you are posting a review or a preview. With anything by SJ McCune I would never read a press release and I am glad that he never sends one or would consider he has a work that would or should be explained. The Human Beings is a story that is a four dimensional jigsaw puzzle. I read and reread issue 3 with a furrowed brow intent to work out the strands and pull them together. Some I catch, some I wonder if they are just my interpretation and some I will never find out. This is all part of the joy of reading a book that is written for clever people and in itself an experiment in art and it's transition into a real and palpable event.
This book is a mystery in so many ways in both traditional ways and ways that are freaking so out of the ordinary that your head will be reeling. It lays down mood and facts in equal measure that then entail you trying to be a mixture of Columbo and Jerry Cornelius (and much, much more) to work it out. A trans dimensional, creepy, whodunnit that moves between the most unsettling of worlds. I relish it appearing with every single instalment.
So, what is this series. Let's try and explain it in more simpler terms. It is an anthology of short stories. The stories range from horror, to sci-fi to biographical. They are none of that and all of that at once. This is also a series that is regularly Kickstarted by the creator. He has a a strong fan base and his work usually gets funded in less than twenty four hours - and rightly so. You know if you back one of his projects that you'll have it through your door or in you inbox promptly and with a mess of extra material.
The cover was an image that SJ teased early on in the process and shows how some hard shadows of the world crash into the light. Impenetrable in their darkness, hiding the truth. A cover that looks like a holiday snap crossed with an Argento movie still. It cunningly laid up the series to come and is echoed in a story called 'I am tomorrow' that appears towards the end of this issue. More on that in a second.
'They can both run, run, run .... and they should ... because this is my work now.'
I am trying not to spoil the story or the things that appear within the narrative that hint at other events. I want the reader to experience and extrapolate for themselves as that is where the joy exists in these comics. All the way through his previous series Monlogue and through this you sense something clever and knowing that will all be explained (maybe).
'I just never notice myself'.
SJ plays with your reading experience. For example the story 'Windows' involves some unsettling visual imagery, some echoing words, some cute female friend interplay and some chatting backstage at a stripper bar. It is purposely counter intuitive yet playful. The peeled off strippers underwear for example shows a playfulness and may (maybe) have a revelation metaphor included.
But... more than ever I sense the autobiographical crawl out from under the bed and look up at you. Comments on how 'jazz makes it easier' and the story 'I am tomorrow' where a man walks through sunny streets with the phantoms of his past all around him make me think we are seeing reflections of the creator everywhere in this comic. The strings are being pulled together, the world is unfolding and we will be shown the creative and real soul of this comic book maker. The last but one page also shows a painter as an easel. They are painting the face of a character in the story...... perhaps I should have been a detective?
'I walk out amoung them, among Human Beings and I remain a phantom.'
(Notice the capital letters in that line of dialogue.... he is his story.)
Buy this comic at www.millicentbarnescomics.bigcartel.com and follow SJ on Twitter @StuartMcCune
Many thanks for reading.